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Francine Griffin: The Song Bird

Derek Taylor By

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Jazz singing like other modes of jazz expression can be an acquired taste. Everyone has a voice, but finding a voice in song can be a lifelong challenge. If the music on this disc is any indication, Ms. Griffin found her a long while ago and has been plying a soulfully swinging croon ever since. Her latest release on Delmark continues her winning streak and delivers another high watermark in a tenacious career that has spanned over five decades. Over the years she’s sat in with an impressive array of jazz legends from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the 50s, to John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy in the 60s. On this particular outing she’s placed in the competent company of several groups of Chicago session-men. Among their number is the estimable Art Hoyle on trumpet.

The tunes are a mixed bag of vocal numbers that bridge the traditions of bop and swing and Griffin shows routinely that these songs have been part of her regular repertoire for many years. Her familiarly carries over periodically into playfully improvised reworkings of several songs’ lyrics to fit her own experiences. Griffin even finds the space for some spirited scat-crobatics as on the briskly swinging rendition of Parker’s “Anthropology.” Musically the three sextets deliver solid accompaniment and most of the tunes afford the players the capacity to stretch out alongside Griffin’s gutsy singing. There are several numbers that suffer from unnecessary fades, such as “Inside a Silent Tear,” but these lapses in production are of minor importance when compared to the delightful music at hand. If you’re a sucker for honestly rendered jazz vocals Ms. Griffin’s rich tapestry of jazz tradition is definitely one to wrap your ears in. An interesting and unexpected footnote is that this release marks Delmark’s first jazz vocal album ever.

Collective

Track Listing: Two Little Words/ If I Were a Bell/ You've Changed/ Anthropology/ Inside A Silent Tear/ It's Crazy/ Don't Be On the Outside/ I Remember Clifford/ Will You Still Be Mine?/ It Don't Mean A Thing/ With A Twist of the Wrist/ You Won't Forget Me/ I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You/ Body and Soul. Recorded: October 22, 1998, April 4, and September 20, 1991, Riverside Studios, Chicago, IL.

Personnel: Collective Francine Griffin- vocals; Art Hoyle- trumpet; Paul McKee- trombone; Mike Smith- alto saxophone; Hank Ford: tenor saxophone; Ed Petersen- tenor saxophone; Willie Pickens- piano; Brad Williams- piano; John Whitfield- double bass; Mike Raynor- drums; George Fludas- drums; Wilbur Campbell- drums.

Title: The Song Bird | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Delmark Records

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